Tile Redi Ltd. of Coral Springs, Fla., is adding distribution and contract manufacturing strength as it supplies polyurethane shower pan modules to builders and contractors.
Made with the reaction injection molding process, the series of lightweight shower pans allows same-day tile placement and meets installation needs of the stone-setting market.
During 2004, Exothermic Molding Inc. of Kenilworth, N.J., began molding prototypes in January and commercial modules in July. Exothermic makes two models, one with a 37-inch-long curb and a corner unit with a three-sided curb.
Managers at Exothermic ``are constantly bringing new ideas and brainstorming with us to save in our production cycle time,'' said Farrell Gerber, a Tile Redi partner and sales director.
For domestic geographic balance, Tile Redi added the Riverside, Calif., plant of Rimnetics Inc. as a supplier this year. Rimnetics is molding three models: one with a 48-inch-long curb and other 60-inch-long versions with either a left or right drain.
``The staff and workmanship at Rimnetics has improved the efficiency for Tile Redi,'' Gerber said.
Tile Redi wants more domestic manufacturing sites, either through expansion of an existing supplier or others.
``We may add a third RIM processor and possibly a fourth,'' Gerber said. ``We are receiving orders from well-known builders across the United States.''
Tile Redi retained Rimnetics subsidiary Applied Polymers Inc. in Riverside as a manufacturer's representative in the West and a provider of nationwide warehousing services. Rimnetics, a unit of Minimatics Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., formed Applied Polymers recently as a successor to a 15-year-old Rimnetics subsidiary known as Technical Sales Inc.
``We are out to build a polymer-oriented rep business catering to the building products market,'' said Walter Chew, Rimnetics marketing manager.
``We start with our own Rimwood products and Tile Redi.'' Rimnetics acquired the Rimwood line, used for exterior door and window trim wood replacement, and other assets from Flintwood Products of Maplewood, Minn., in 2001.
Tile Redi backers have invested heavily to create the new series of production tools, Chew said. Each tool weighs about 5,000 pounds.
Tile Redi was formed in 1996 and experienced challenges in bringing the idea to the market. An early vacuum form mold of cast aluminum failed to meet quality expectations and was discarded.
Beginning in 2000, RIM development work with a resin supplier moved the Tile Redi project along. ``We thought they had excellent ideas,'' said Dick Macy, a representative with RIM expertise at Bayer MaterialScience LLC in Pittsburgh.
Bayer MaterialScience, an operating company within a Bayer AG unit, developed a PU RIM system to meet requirements for Tile Redi module weight, density and physical properties.
``We helped design and redesign the shower basin parts,'' thin down thickness and assist in working through Underwriters Laboratories Inc. test procedures, Macy said. He does not envision injection molding intruding on the market for this RIM application.
The RIM process involves a two-part liquid formulation of isocyanate and polyol for molding parts ranging from a flexible foam-core to a rigid solid. The Tile Redi application uses a standard PU with additives, Macy said.
Numerous advantages exist.
``While other plastic materials, mostly in sheet form, are used in this application, Tile Redi has engineered a very progressive plastic molding that will put every shower stall builder at ease - no leaks, no water damage, no mold - together with same-day installation,'' Chew said.
The product line demonstrates ``the efficiency of molding and the advances in polymer chemistry,'' he added.
Composites make a difference.
``One critical feature of the Tile Redi product line is the encapsulated PVC drain, which makes the pan waterproof and is a claim that no other shower pan makers can provide,'' said Paul Steck, Exothermic Molding president. RIM is an excellent process for encapsulation and composite molding and offers the ability to mold heavy-walled sections of 1 inch or more from low-pressure molds.
The drain can connect to a 3-inch-diameter pipe of PVC or metal.
With each order, Tile Redi includes three-part epoxy setting materials from Laticrete International Inc. of Bethany, Conn.
Tile Redi is working on a few new shower pan models for introduction in 2006.
In addition to Farrell Gerber, who has 13 years of sales and marketing experience, Tile Redi partners are his brother, Lloyd Gerber, with 25 years' experience in the construction industry, and Jenkin Fok of Toronto, who has 30 years' experience as an interior designer and serves as Tile Redi marketing director in Canada. The brothers are based in Florida.
Tile Redi has obtained patent protection and recruited manufacturer representatives in the United States and Canada and across Europe.